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FOCUS! Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus in a Near-Sighted World (Part 10)

It was a perfect move. I’ve been playing online chess for several years and most of my opponents have been kind and friendly and, well, encouraging me in my growing expertise in the game.

Until Bill. Bill had a very high ranking and severely criticized me for bringing out my queen way too early. [If you’re not a chess player, cheer up. My illustration will be done soon]. I knew he was right, but he didn’t have to be so snarky about it!

When all of a sudden, I took my next move — and checkmated him! It was purely by accident. No foresight had gone into my move. To charge me with well-thought-out strategy would be a gross overstatement. One move. And I had him. Snarkiness and all.

He texted me something like, “Of all the dumb luck!” with a few &%*$’s thrown in for good measure! And he never played me again.

I just stared at the board, cerebral pride growing in my head. I had success. Against a much more worthy opponent! And I couldn’t stop looking at the board. I wanted to take a picture of it, have it canvassed, and mounted on our living room wall among all the pictures of the grandchildren (the wife said “No!” to my idea). I was successful. I had won!

In our post this morning we want to think about SUCCESS. We’ve considered how SUFFERING (both self-inflicted as well as others-inflicted) can get our eyes off Jesus. But what about when things are going well? When we’ve closed that big deal, hit that home run, remembered our anniversary (trust me, guys — you’ll only forget your wedding anniversary once).

There are many aspects of SUCCESS that we could think about, but the one that gets our eyes off Jesus is . . . PRIDE. Many biblical texts warn against ungodly PRIDE (there is a godly kind), a focusing on self and one’s SUCCESSES. For example, we read —

Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

2 Chronicles 26:16 – “But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God, and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.”

Psalm 10:4 tells us that “In his pride the wicked man does not seek [God]; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

Proverbs 11:2 reminds us that “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

When we exalt ourselves instead of the Lord, Isaiah 2:11 tells us, there are consequences: “The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.”

James 4:6 warns us of opposition from God Himself: “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’”

In a sense, ungodly pride is robbing God. We read in Psalm 31:23 “Love the Lord, all his faithful people! The Lord preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full.”

When we find ourselves in what some have called “the terrible squirrel cage of self,” we would do well to remember Proverbs 16:19 which says, “Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.”

We read of Lucifer’s (the devil’s) fall in Ezekiel 28 – “In your heart you became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.” (v. 17).

But we must also remember that there is a godly pride which we should cultivate. Romans 11:13 has Paul testifying, “I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry.” It is right to speak or write words of encouragement to others, as Paul does in 2 Corinthians 4 – “I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.” And there is even a text that tells us we can take pride in ourselves! We read in Galatians 6:4 that “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,”

“What do you have that you did not receive?” (I Cor. 4:7). Any SUCCESSES that we experience — if they are honorable ones before the Lord — ought to drive us to thank Him. We do not, nor should we, strive to be failures, but we must refuse to let SUCCESS turn our vision from the Lord to ourselves.

It’s easy to criticize a quote like the following from Bob Dylan: “What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.” But if “what I want to do” is to become more like Jesus . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2020 in vision

 

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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #7- SUCCESS) (con’t)

Jesus-followers sometimes get stuck in the area of SUCCESS.  They either think God has guaranteed them success in material prosperity or health — or — they think they are to go through life as paupers, like the little boy in Charles Dicken’s tale (“More porridge, Sir?”).

These messages for Crossroads Fellowship Church in Augusta, GA (website: crossroadschurchinaugusta.com) will conclude with this one on the topic of SUCCESS.  I pray for the SUCCESS of that small church as their new pastor comes and begins his ministry in October.

We looked at 2 Corinthians 5 briefly in our last post.

6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5)

All believers await the judgment seat of Christ — and we will be held accountable for how we have served Him.  What factors maximize the possibility that He will say to us on that day, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?  From this passage I would suggest three:

1. We seek to walk by faith and not by sight (v. 7).  Demanding daily miracles from the Lord does not strike me as walking by faith.  He can do a miracle whenever He wishes, but our task is to live out our Christian lives by faith.

2.  We make it our goal to please Him (v. 9).  What’s involved in “pleasing” someone?  We find out what their desires, needs, wishes, dreams are — and we invest ourselves in meeting those!  What pleases the Lord? (Might I suggest you do a concordance study of the word “please” or “pleasing” the Lord?  You’ll find some very helpful truth in the Word!).

3.  We recognize that we will be held accountable for the things done in the body, whether good or bad (v. 10).  Although we are saved by grace, we are responsible for the works we do or don’t do once we are saved.  (The topic of rewards for the believer is a large, but important, one, and deserves to be studied.)  It is not wrong to live for the Lord’s approval and for the achievement of rewards for faithfulness.  My desire is for a whole lot of crowns on that day — so that I can lay them at His feet!  You?

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2017 in christian growth

 

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STUCK! Ten Areas That Will Bury You as a Believer and How to Dig Your Way Out! (Area #7- SUCCESS!)

“I’ve had great success being a total idiot,” Jerry Lewis once said.  This ground-breaking comedian and philanthropist died this week at the age of 91.  Sometimes SUCCESS becomes a kind of quicksand for the Christian.

I will deliver a message on SUCCESS to the saints at Crossroads Fellowship Church in Augusta, GA (website: crossroadschurchinaugusta.com) on September 24, my last Sunday with those friends.

Jesus-followers gravitate from a kind of prosperity theology that says God always wants us wealthy, healthy, and successful to a kind of poverty theology that says we are to suffer for Jesus, live austere lives, and eat only locusts and wild honey.   Both theologies are wrong.  Should the follower of Jesus seek SUCCESS — and what kind of SUCCESS ought he or she to pursue?

Of the 51 uses of the word “success” in the Bible, all of them are in the Old Testament!  There is not one occurrence of that word in the New Testament.  The idea of being successful is there in the New Testament (in verses such as Phil. 4:13, Mt. 16:26-27, Lk. 16:10-11, Rom. 12:2), but the emphasis seems to be more on faithfulness and rewards for living life for Jesus.  In the Old Testament, many of the uses of “success” have to do with military victories (such as I Sam. 18:5, 14; I Chron. 12:18; 2 Chron. 26:5).

Here is the main text we want to look at:

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5)

How does this text relate to SUCCESS?, you might ask.  SUCCESS in life will be judged by the Lord Jesus at “the judgment seat of Christ.”  The Apostle Paul makes it quite clear that there are only two states of existence for the believer:  either “at home in the body [and] away from the Lord” or “away from the body and at home with the Lord.”  We are presently “away from the Lord,” seeking to please Him with our lives, striving to live by faith and not by sight.  SUCCESS is striving to please Him whether at home in the body or away from it!  How are you trying to please the Lord today?  (to be continued)

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2017 in christian growth

 

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Time for a Great Quote (Francis Chan on SUCCESS!)

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 5.56.08 AM“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”
― Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2015 in success

 

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Great Commercial! Fed Ex Project SUCCESS!


We all wish to be SUCCESSFUL! We want to make a good impression. Winston Churchhill said, “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” Wilfred Peterson, an American author, said, “Success is focusing the full power of all you are on what you have a burning desire to achieve.”

Questions:

1.  How would you define success?

2.  Where do you think the Lord is giving you success?

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2014 in success

 

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